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Colonial Cases

Kufod v. Campbell, 1864

[libel]

Kufod v. Campbell and Coulter

Consular Court, Shanghai
1864
Source: The North-China Herald, 14 May 1864

 

H.B.M. CONSULATE.

Before Sir HARRY PARKES, Consul.

Alexander Jameson. R. E. Love, Assessors.

KUFOD versus CAMPBELL & COULTER.

The plaintiff claimed Tls. 3,000 for damages sustained to his character as a pilot, through a letter addressed by the defendants to Messrs. Chapman King, stating that the Sea King had been detained ten hours at the light ship, because plaintiff had not a boat to go off to her.  The defendant Campbell admitted that he had signed the letter, but said he had done so in ignorance of the facts.  He did not know whether the vessel really had been delayed; but was handed the letter and had signed it.

J. PENIL, master of the Sea King, left Shanghai in charge of a pilot on the 10th April.  I do not think I was delayed more than five minutes while discharging the pilot.  I never slacked speed.  The pilot cutter was waiting.  There was no more delay than was unavoidable.  We left at 4 a.m. and discharged the pilot at 10 a.m., six hours afterwards.  When I got down, the cutter was at hand.

JOHN JAMES KELLY, an assistant in the employ of Messrs. Chapman King.  We received a letter signed by defendants.  Had it been true, it would have prevented our employing the plaintiff any mote.  The letter was written without any enquiry on our part.

Mr. EAMES said that the case shewed, evidently, a malicious attempt to injure the character of the plaintiff.  The opposition pilots had, for some time, been carrying on a wordy warfare, especially against the plaintiff.  But this was the first time that they had ventured on the step of writing clandestinely to merchants, with a view to deprive him of business.  He was not in a position to prove that he had sustained any actual damages.  But it was impossible to say how much he might have lost.  Besides, in a case of strict tort, the plaintiff was not bound to prove that he had sustained any actual damages.  It was left to the discretion of the court to decide the sum in which the defendants ought to be mulcted; and, in some cases, the law enjoined that exemplary damages should be given.  Lord Abinger had laid down that, when a party wantonly violated the law, the jury should give exemplary damages.

It could not be denied that the intention was to deprive the plaintiff of his business; and if the libel had been believed, it would certainly have had that effect.  Each one of the defendants had published a wilfully malicious libel, and each was individually responsible.  The captain had shown that he had been subjected to no delay at all; it was clear, therefore, that there could have been no misunderstanding.  The attempt to injure his client was wilful and malicious.  If they found that they were allowed to do this with impunity, they would continue the practice.  It was not a question of loss in money but loss of reputation.

Sir HARRY PARKES advised that proceedings against Coulter should be stopped.  It was impossible for him to have been present to-day, in consequence of the shortness of the notice given.  Mr. Eames assented, and said that the case for the plaint was closed.

DEFENDANT had no witnesses to produce, and only wished to say that, instead of the letter having injured plaintiff's character, he believed that he had had more ships this month than during any other period.  He was very sorry he had signed the letter, he had done so thoughtlessly, without appreciating its serious nature.  A pilot named Woodward had written the letter and had asked him to sign it.

Mr. EAMES would remark that his client had been put to an expense of more then Tls. 100 in bringing the case into Court; and he hoped that, in assessing damages, the Court would take this into consideration.

The COURT considered that the defendant had been guilty of a malicious libel, and sentenced him to pay Tls. 300 damages, and costs.

Mr. EAMES wished to state that his client had instructed him, after deducting the costs of the suit, to divide the remainder of the fine between the Orphans' Society and that for Shipwrecked Mariners.  He had not brought the action with any view to monetary gain; but only to clear his character.

The COURT thought that was a very natural wish, and the resolution to dispose of the money in the manner stated was very creditable to the plaintiff.

Mr. EAMES wished it to be clearly understood that the damages awarded only referred to the individual defendant.  So that it remained to sue those pilots who had signed the letter, who were American subjects, in the U.S. Court.

The defendant was understood to complain that it was rather hared that he alone should have to suffer; that he would have to pay the money himself.

The COURT could not think his associates in signing the letter would be guilty of allowing him to do so.  It would allow him a week to pay the fine, and would then be glad to know whether they had contributed their share.  If not, he might be sure that the circumstances would not tell in their favour when they appeared before the U.S. Consular Court.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School